Blues progressed into the second round of this season’s Capital One Cup with a win over Cambridge United at St. Andrew’s on Tuesday evening.
To their credit, the U’s made Blues battle all the way and it took extra-time goals from Paul Caddis and substitute Mark Duffy to make sure of the result.
Clayton Donaldson got the hosts off to a great start when he gave his side a 16th minute lead, but the visitors struck back with a second-half equaliser, before Caddis and Duffy stepped up with their goals.
Clark made no less than seven changes to the side that were beaten by Middlesbrough in their opening Sky Bet Championship fixture of the season at the weekend. Colin Doyle was given a start in goal and David Davis made his debut just 24 hours after his move to St. Andrew's from Wolverhampton Wanderers. In the absence of Paul Robinson who was rested, Caddis was awarded the captain's armband.
It was a slightly nervy opening from both sides with a number of passes going astray. However the players soon started to settle and with five minutes gone Demarai Gray fashioned the first chance, but he dragged his shot wide.
At the other end of the superbly named Harrison Dunk tried his luck from distance but Doyle held his effort comfortably, before Adam Cunnington fired straight at the Blues keeper moments later.
Cambridge came close to taking the lead just before the quarter-hour mark. Doyle was only able to parry Kwesi Appiah’s powerful shot into the path of Cunnington. Fortunately Doyle stood strong and blocked the subsequent close-range shot.
Two minutes later Blues found themselves in the lead thanks to Donaldson. Caddis supplied the pass and his teammate made no mistake as he calmly found the back of the net with a low finish.
An excellent piece of skill from Donaldson almost saw him double his tally after 33 minutes. Wes Thomas slid the ball across the box for Donaldson, but his back-heeled attempt was cleared off the line by Richard Tait.
The visitors found themselves right back in the contest after 37 minutes when the U’s own Donaldson equalised. But this time it was Ryan.
The U’s midfielder collected the ball inside the Blues half before cutting inside and running on towards the Blues area and unleashing a terrific effort which flew into the bottom corner past a diving Doyle.
Half-time: Blues 1 Cambridge United 1
Cambridge came out for the second-half flying and within the space of three minutes, Ryan Donaldson saw his strong shot turned behind at the near post and then Josh Coulson’s header was deflected against his own post by a Blues player.
Cambridge had a glorious opportunity to take the lead just before the hour-mark when Grant Hall slipped and Delano Sam Yorke was left free to run forwards towards the Blues goal. But with just Doyle to beat he was thwarted by the Blues stopper who stood tall to save his shot.
Blues were just inches wide from scoring themselves when David Cotterill’s curling shot was deflected just the wrong side of the post. Clayton Donaldson was then just a whisker wide with a snap shot.
As the game entered the final 20 minutes of standard time, Blues were gradually beginning to ramp up the pressure, but the U’s were still looking a threat on the break.
The hosts were given a scare when former Manchester United man Luke Chadwick sent a pile-driver of a shot just over the bar.
Caddis looked odds on the score with a stinging half-volley, but it was blocked by Tait just two yards in front of his goal. As the match entered the second minute of stoppage time at the end of regular time, Lee Novak’s cross found Clayton Donaldson, but the Blues man bundled his effort wide of the target when it would have probably been easier to find the back of the net.
With extra time four minutes old Cotterill blasted a shot just over from 20 yards before Blues took the lead after 95 minutes courtesy of Caddis.
U’s keeper Chris Dunn saved Cotterill’s shot, but he was only able to palm it towards the Blues skipper who drilled the ball home through a sea of legs and into the net.
Right towards the end of the first period of extra-time, Blues all but confirmed their victory when Mark Duffy made it 3-1 after he saw his shot hit the arm of U’s keeper Dunn loop into the back of the net.
Blues will find out their opponents in the next round of the competition on Wednesday evening.